West Michigan woman shares close call with online dating fraud

WEST MICHIGAN -- Online dating schemes are on the rise and law enforcement and the Better Business Bureau are now getting involved. The schemes target thousands of people every year resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

With Valentine's Day on Wednesday, a lot of people have romance on the mind. That includes one woman from West Michigan who almost fell victim to one of the schemes and came very close to losing her money.

The woman wishes to remain anonymous, but spoke to FOX 17 about her experience. She's 69 years old and says she met a guy online who she hit it off with from the very beginning. She says after a few days she knew it was too good to be true.

"I've never had a man speak to me like that in my whole entire life. Never," said the woman.

She was hooked from the very beginning: the sweet talking, the foreign accent and the handsome man in uniform.

"He started talking right away and it became the most wonderful ear candy a woman could ever have," said the woman. "It was four days of him telling me everything I wanted to hear, that's for sure."

The woman says she met the man on the dating website Zoosk. He told her his name was Robert, he was 70 years old and currently living on an oil rig off the coast of Alaska.

"It was his job and the company he said he owned and he was a foreigner," said the woman. "He had an accent and a Scottish brogue is right up my alley. Everything just fit. He was surreal."

They spoke every day through phone calls and text messages. She says they'd speak every few hours for four days straight and things were moving fast.

"He says that he's going to retire in six weeks and he wanted to be a citizen in the United States," said the woman. "He said he needed to find a home to retire to and wanted to know how much the houses were running in my area because, of course, he wanted to be near me. In four days? When I've never met him?"

That's when things took a turn.

"On the fourth day he started grooming me to let me know that he had trouble with getting funds because he was in this oil rig," said the woman. "This oil rig is on a lot of YouTube videos and sites with testimony. This is one of the big stories that these guys work on oil rigs because they have no access to their funds, they say. He let me know that this was a problem for him. But then he would call me and everything would go back to my ear candy again, which is the way they do it. You just want to be talking to them all the time."

She believes the man she called Robert was eventually going to ask her to send him money. Her daughter showed her videos online of other women sharing their stories after they were ripped-off.

"There was a woman who had given over a hundred thousand dollars and it wasn't even her life savings, it was her childrens' life savings, she borrowed the money from her children," said the woman.

For this woman it was a close call and now she's using this as a way to educate others who might be looking for love online.

"Don't jump into it," she says. "Take it slow. Watch out. If it doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. If it seems too good, it probably is."

The woman believes the man she was speaking to may have been living in Nigeria and was part of a fraudulent ring happening there. She says it's so difficult for police to track them down because they use throwaway phones and live in foreign countries.

If you believe you might be a victim of an online dating scheme, contact your local law enforcement.

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